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Also, don't forget that the book giveaway ends tomorrow! If you have not entered or written up a review of either The Soldier's Cross or The Shadow Things, hurry and do so before November is out. We'll be announcing the winners next month.
And now, your questions answered.
1. How do you develop your characters?
I write them. Honestly, that is the most helpful thing I have found for developing characters; much as I enjoy memes like Beautiful People for learning things about these people, I really don’t get to know the people themselves until I’ve spent a good 50,000 words with them. Even now, despite all the planning I’ve done for writing Tempus Regina in November, I wouldn’t say I know my characters. By the end of the story, then I should know them. But I’ve got to plug away at Regina’s side, seeing her struggles and her thoughts and her words, to the finish line before I can say I know even a little inkling of who she is—just as I had to plug away with Fiona, and Justin King, and Tip Brighton. They surprise me and, to argue in a rather circular fashion, that’s when I know they’re developed.
2. Do you ever want to write longer books (like 200 page-300 pages and/or longer)?
As a matter of fact, my stories are pretty long already by industry standards (not by the standards of a Dickens or a Dumas, but alas, we don’t live in the 19th Century anymore!). The Soldier’s Cross, since it was a debut novel, is pretty small at 92,000 words. The entirety of The White Sail’s Shaking came in at a whopping 185,000, or thereabouts, and I’ve been obliged to split it for easier digestion. As it is technically one story, however, I still count it as an 185k story. Who knows how long Tempus Regina will be? I’m trying not to think about it.
I like large books. As Jane Austen wrote—in one of her incomplete works, I think: “But for my own part, if a book is well written, I always find it too short.” It would even seem that my brain produces large books. Perhaps one of these days I’ll produce a tome to rival the bulk of Les Miserables!
3. What is your favorite Charles Dickens novel? Have you read Bleak House?
It’s difficult to pick a favourite work of a man so accomplished. I enjoyed Little Dorrit; I was caught up in the sorrow of Amy Dorrit’s life and in the tortured honour of a hero like Arthur Clennam. I was amazed, too, at Dickens’ skill at bringing all the threads together to create a whole seamless story. However, I must give A Tale of Two Cities much credit for having made me bawl. I honestly had to go in search of a box of Kleenex when I shut the book on the last page. Who can not suffer with and respect a character like Sydney Carton? It made my heart ache, and though it was smaller than most of Dickens’ other works, I think it deserves its high position amid literature.
But I haven’t read Bleak House yet! It waits for me to be in the mood for something, well, bleak. I’ve heard it’s excellent and I really must get to it soon.
4. Why do you write?
I write because I can’t not. I write because of my love for the characters, and the worlds and stories of the characters, in my mind. I write because if I didn’t, the stories would probably burst out like Athena from Zeus’ head. I write because I was made to create—as I believe everyone, because fashioned in God’s image, was made to create—and the medium I’ve been given is that of words. That’s why I write.
alex (goldenink) asked...
5. What was it that got you into writing?
I’m not one of those writers who has been scribbling from the earliest age, though I was always an uncritical admirer of my sister’s stories. When I was nine or ten, I didn’t have any real hobbies and was most disgruntled about it. I wanted to draw and couldn’t, wasn’t in love with violin enough to pursue it, and wanted very much to write. So I began, and though it was a very rocky beginning, I’m glad I did.
6. What inspired the story behind The Soldier's Cross?
The story was mostly inspired by a snapshot image of a young woman in a sanctuary, holding a silver cross pendant. It had absolutely no relation to anything else, but it developed quickly after that first thought. I’m sure there was pain in the process, but fortunately I’ve forgotten it now!
7. Who was your favorite character in the book, and why?
It is a little difficult to answer this, as I am torn between David, with whom Fiona has perhaps five run-ins all told, and Pierre, the young Lord of Gallandon. David was always a breeze to write; he was so brusque and his kindness so harsh. But Pierre had more character, simply because he was present more often, and I knew him best. I liked discovering his strengths and weaknesses and watching his personality develop. And, too—but that would be telling. Anyhow, I think I can say Pierre is my favorite.
8. What is your current writing project, and how is it progressing so far?
I’m currently writing what someone recently termed a “fantasy-esque” novel called Tempus Regina: taking it through NaNo, in fact. It is something like a historical fantasy, because, while it deals with time travel, dragons, and all that good stuff, it also deals heavily with two legendary points in history. The story is still young and I have not properly “gotten into” it, but I am enjoying it and having fun with the characters. And the research. Really fun, outlandish research.
9. What hopes do you have for writing?
Ah, this question sinks deep! I think (if I must be honest) that while I strive to write to honor God and for my personal enjoyment, I do have a number of “hopes” for what my writing will accomplish. I hope my writing expands my mind and my spirit. I hope my books find their way into the hearts of readers and inspire love, and many gleeful, inarticulate sentences. There are many things I hope for, and it can be difficult to keep that “rare jewel of Christian contentment” while still laboring to better my work.
10. Do you have any advice for beginning writers?
If you’re just beginning to write, do your very best to ignore the host of writing tips and blogs and books out there and just write. If you focus too heavily and too early on “getting it right,” you run the great risk of losing the heart and soul of writing and turning it into a mere mechanical process.
11. Do you have any advice for those writers who are about ready to begin their journey into the world of publishing?
Think about what you’re doing, and don’t opt for one path simply because it appears easier. In my most recent (and controversial!) post I sought to encourage writers not to take anything for granted, and to question the things around them: even something as apparently fundamental as the Christian publishing industry. As believers, we should be marked for the thought we give and the wisdom we apply to everything we set our hand to do.